Baseball Preview: #4 Vols Take On SEC East Rival Kentucky in Thursday-Saturday Series

UT Baseball / Credit: UT Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – No. 4 Tennessee will look to continue its success in Southeastern Conference play as it hosts fellow eastern division foe Kentucky this Thursday through Saturday at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

The Vols have won five of their six SEC series so far after taking two of three games at Texas A&M last weekend, exploding for 20 runs in Sunday’s rubber game to clinch the series.

The Wildcats are coming off a series win of their own, sweeping a Sunday doubleheader against Alabama after dropping the opener.

GAMEDAY INFORMATION

Relying on the expertise of public health authorities, the state of Tennessee, appropriate university and government agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we are implementing a number of new initiatives at Tennessee Baseball gamedays this spring. The well-being of our student-athletes, fans and staff are our top priorities and guide our decisions. Exposure to COVID-19 is an inherent risk in any public location where people are present; we cannot guarantee you will not be exposed during your visit.

The Southeastern Conference in August released several conference-wide fan health and safety guidelines for all member institutions this fall. The Tennessee-specific measures outlined on this page are in line with, and in addition to, the SEC’s guidelines.

Parking
Baseball parking is located primarily in Lots GF1, G16, and C1.

Additional on-street parking is located in C10 along Todd Helton Dr. and Chamique Holdsclaw Dr. and along West Volunteer Blvd.

Handicap parking is located in marked handicap spaces on Pat Head Summitt St. and in the G16 Volunteer Blvd. garage.  The 2021 parking map can be seen HERE (PDF).

For more information and gameday info, visit the Tennessee Baseball Gameday Information page by clicking HERE.

TICKET INFORMATION

Lindsey Nelson Stadium continues to operate with reduced capacity to align with state and local social-distancing guidelines for public gatherings.

Single-game tickets for remaining midweek games may be purchased by calling the Tennessee Athletic ticket office at 865-656-1200 or online at Allvols.com. For SEC Conference games, a limited number of single game tickets will go on sale at Lindsey Nelson Stadium 90 minutes prior to first pitch.

Single-game tickets may also be available for select games at the baseball ticket office based on visiting team ticket returns. Fans are encouraged to call the Ticket Office at 865-656-1200 for individual game availability. For weekend series, please contact the Ticket Office on Fridays before 5:00 p.m. Single-game tickets can also be purchased through Vivid Seats by clicking HERE.

In order to keep Lindsey Nelson Stadium as full as possible during a season with limited capacity, we are encouraging season ticket holders who are unable to use their tickets for a game(s) to either transfer your tickets to someone else (Instructions HERE), sell them on VividSeats (Information available at UTSports.com/cantmakethegame) or participate in our new Seats for Student program (Instructions HERE).

BROADCAST INFO

Thursday’s game will be televised on ESPNU with Clay Matvick (PxP) and Todd Walker (color) on the call. Friday and Saturday’s games will be streamed live on SEC Network+ and the ESPN app with Bob Kesling (PxP) and Charlie Puleo (color) calling the action.

Fans can also listen to the official Vol Network radio call for all three games on Sports Radio WNML (FM 99.1 / AM 990), as well as UTSports.com and the UT Gameday app. John Wilkerson and Vince Ferrara will call the action.

PROJECTED STARTING PITCHERS

Game 1: RHP Chad Dallas (6-1) vs. RHP Cole Stupp (4-3)
Game 2: LHP Will Heflin (2-1) vs. TBD
Game 3: RHP Blade Tidwell (4-2) vs. RHP Zack Lee (4-3)

SERIES HISTORY

Overall: Tennessee leads, 175-151
In Knoxville: Tennessee leads, 99-70
In Lexington: Kentucky leads, 79-73
Neutral Sites: Tennessee leads, 3-2
Last Meeting: W, 8-2 (April 20, 2019)

The Vols have won four straight in the series after sweeping the Wildcats in the last meeting between the two programs back in 2019. During Tony Vitello‘s tenure as head coach, UT has won both of its series against Kentucky, coming away victorious in five of the six games.

NOTABLE

Rucker & Gilbert Take Home SEC Weekly Honors
Junior third baseman Jake Rucker and sophomore outfielder/pitcher Drew Gilbert both earned SEC weekly honors on Monday after big weekends at Texas A&M.

Rucker was UT’s best hitter last week, leading the team with a .556 batting average, 10 hits, six runs, four doubles, 17 total bases, a .944 slugging percentage and a .579 on-base percentage. Rucker recorded hits in all four games last week and tied his career high with three hits in all three games against Texas A&M over the weekend. The Greenbrier, Tennessee, native went 3-for-5 with two doubles and set a new career high with four runs scored in Sunday’s series finale. He also drove in a pair of runs as the Vols hammered the Aggies, 20-7, to take the series.

Gilbert showcased his versatility last week, doing damage at the plate while also pitching two scoreless innings in last Tuesday’s midweek win over Tennessee Tech. The Stillwater, Minnesota, native had a hit in three of Tennessee’s four games and was second on the team with six RBI last week. His six hits also ranked second on the team for the week. Four of those hits came in Sunday’s rubber game at Texas A&M, tying a career high. He also scored two runs and had three RBI on the day to lead UT to an emphatic series-clinching win.

Going Yard
Tennessee has been on a major power surge recently. In the past two weeks, the Vols have hit 20 home runs in a span of just nine games, including nine in their series win at Texas A&M last weekend. The Big Orange blasted a season-high six homers in Sunday’s 20-7 victory to increase their season total to 54, which ranks fifth in the SEC and 12th in nation. Senior Evan Russell has been responsible for 12 of those 54 homers, which is tied for fifth in the SEC and 13th nationally. His 10 long balls in SEC play are the most in the league.

SEC Success
Tennessee’s 12-6 conference record is its best through 18 games since going 13-5 in 1995. The Big Orange have won five of their six SEC series so far, including all three road series, marking the first time they have won their first three series away from home in league play since 1994.

Vols In the Polls
The Vols enter their series against the Wildcats ranked No. 4 in the nation by D1Baseball.com, USA Today and the NCBWA. UT is ranked in the top 10 by all six major polls.

OPPONENT SCOUT

Kentucky Wildcats

  • 2021 Record: 25-13 (9-9 SEC)
  • Rankings: RV (NCBWA)
  • 2019 Postseason: N/A
  •  Head Coach: Nick Mingione (5th season) // Named 2017 National and SEC Coach of the Year
  • Predicted SEC Finish: 7th (Eastern Division)
  • Preseason All-SEC Selections:
    • T.J. Collett (1st Team – 1B)
  • Stat Leaders:
    • Batting Avg: Coltyn Kessler (.394)
    • Runs: John Rhodes (37)
    • Hits: Austin Schultz (54)
    • Home Runs: T.J. Collett (14)
    • RBI: T.J. Collett (46)
    • Stolen Bases: Austin Schultz (16-18)
    • Wins: Cole Stupp/Zack Lee (4)
    • ERA (min. 15.0 IP): Mason Hazelwood (2.13)
    • Innings Pitched: Cole Stupp (56.2)
    • Strikeouts: Cole Stupp (53)

GAME PROMOTIONS

Upcoming promotions for all Tennessee athletics home events can be found on the UT Fan Experience page by clicking HERE.

Fans are encouraged to download the My All App for their phones and devices this season. The app is available on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store and will allow fans to participate in in-game trivia, the custom filter selfie cam and more throughout the year.

ON DECK

Tennessee will not play a midweek game next week and will have five days off before starting a road series at Missouri on Friday, May 7.

-UT Athletics

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